Centennial History of Somerset County, New Jersey

The shores of New Jersey were first trod by the feet of civilized men in September, 1609. The visitors were from the ship of Hendrick Hudson, who on the Third day of that month had brought his vessel within the waters of the Raritan Bay, and allowed his men to hold intercourse with the Indians on the Monmouth shore. On the sixth, a boat's crew passed the Narrows, and rounding the east shore of Staten Island, entered the Kills, and discovered Newark Bay, Returning in the evening this boat encountered two canoes full of Raritan Indians, anG one of the crew, John Colman, was slain by being shot with an arrow in the neck.

Another ship was sent from Holland in 1610 with goods to commence a traffic with the Indians. On the 11th of October, 1614, the West India Company was formed, the country named New Netherland and a regular intercourse and trade commenced. As early as 1620 settlers had built houses and occupied lands on the shores of New Jersey, adjacent to New Amsterdam, for which titles were granted, and on which improvements were made. But on the 20th of March, 1664, Charles II. King of England, granted to his brother James, Duke of York, "all that tract of land adjacent to New England, bounded on the East by the main Sea and part of Hudson River, and hath upon the West, Delaware Bay or River, and extendeth Southward to the main Ocean as far as Cape May at the mouth of the Delaware River," ignoring the discovery, occupancy and improvements made for the space of Forty Three years by the Hollanders, and resting title solely on the voyages of Cabot in 14978, along the coast of Labrador to the parallel of Gibralter and Verazzano in 1506.

Before the Duke had actually taken possession of any part of this territory, on the 23rd and 24th of June, 1664, he "executed deeds of lease and release to Lord John Berkley and Sir George Carteret for the whole of that portion of it included within the bounds of the State of New Jersey," and called it Neo Caesaria, in compliment to Carteret, who had been Governor of the Island of Jersey, and defended it against the Cromwellians,

On thee same day, he commissioned his brother Philip Carteret as Governor, who at once began to make preparations to take possession of his Province, In August, of the same year he arrived in a ship at Elizabethtown-Point, having on board some thirty persons, part of them servants. He found there a settlement of four families, and named it Elizabeth in honor of the wife of his brother, Sir George.

Between Berkley and Carteret, the Province was divid- ed in East and West New Jersey. The line between the two parts was to run from "the East side of Little Egg Harbor, straight North through the country, to the utmost branch of the Delaware River." This line was run by George Keith Surveyor General of East Jersey, in 1687.

The line began at Little Egg Harbor and ran "North by West, (3 degrees and 4 minutes more Westerly,) as the compass then pointed, until it reached Dobie's Plantation on the South branch of Raritan River, (a short distance below the mouth of the Neshanic Creek) thence along the rear of that and other plantations, until it intersects that part of the North branch of Raritan River which descends from a fall of water commonly known by the Indian name of Allamitung." This line was retraversed by John Chapman in 1721, but found to vary two degrees and twenty-three minutes in thirty-four years. It was not satisfactory to the Western proprietors, and in 1743 it was again surveyed by John Lawrence. His line passed near Somerville touching the white oak tree on the Eastside of the house formerly owned by John M. Mann and intersecting the Delaware River near the mouth of Dingman's Creek, several miles below the point originally designated. The difference between the two lines was important, since the angle or gore of land between them contained about 528.640 acres of valuable land.

Sir George Carteret died in 1679, and by his Will, dated December 5, 1678, left his widow, Lady Elizabeth, Executrix and Guardian of his grand-son Sir Phillip's son, named also George, devising East Jersey to certain Trustees for the benefit of his creditors (see Whitehead 82) who sold it finally to Wm. Penn. with Eleven other Quaker associates for 3400. The deed of sale bears date Feb. 1 and 2, 1681 and 2.

Philip Carteret, the Governor, resided permanently at Elizabeth where the Proprietaries had a house built for him having an orchard and ground attached to it He married a daughter of Richard Smith, of Long Island, a widow Lawrence, in April, 1681. Murrary in his not^s on Elizabethtown, says on the authority of tradition, that he died and was buried there. His Will is dated Dec. 10, 1682, and he died soon after. He had from his brother a grant of 2000 acres of land, and owned by purchase several other tracts, but never realized any profits from any of them. In his Will he directed his body to be placed in Gov. Stuyvesant's vault in New York, if liberty could be obtained, otherwise a grave to be, purchased in the Church of New York. Where his remains rest, is not positively known.

On the 14th of March, 1682, the Duke of York confirmed the sale of the Province by giving a new grant, and Robert Barclay became Governor. He was a Quaker friend of Wm. Penn, He was superseded September of the same year by Thomas Rudyard. ( ISee Whitehead, 88, 92,) Rudyard subsequently appointed Gawn Lawrie deputy, and again Lord Neil Campbell, who remained in the country less than a year. At the death of Barclay, Andrew Hamilton became Governor-in-Chief until June, 1689. He then vacated his authority and returned to Europe, but came back again in 1692. and resumed his position, but was superseded by Jeremiah Basse, The Provinces wt^re united in 1702 and placed under the Government of Queen Anne.

Carteret's government of the Province of East Jersey w not either successful or happy. Andros, of New York, claimed supreme authority in New Jersey as a dependency of New York, deposed Carteret, took him prisoner and conveyed him to New York and tried him, but his proceedings were finally overruled, and Carteret resumed his position and authority in the Province; but still we find an unsettled state of public opinion and the "tumultuous spirits" are frequently alluded to. The claim and collecting of quit-rents seem to have been the principal inciting cause, and though it continued under him and his successors some 38 years, the Proprietary Government proved finally a total failure On the 17th of April 1702, the proprietors of both East and West Jersey, sought the protection of the British Crown, and conceded all their rights of Government to the English Queen. (See 8. 211, 218,) IShe committed the administration of it to her kinsman, Edward Hyde Lord Cornbury, a grandson of the Earl of Clarendon, the great English Chancellor. The instructions given him, together with the concessions and agreements which he published on assuming the government, formed the Constitution under which New Jersey lived and prospered until the Revolution. They formed, in fact, a safe and liberal Constitution ! It is almost a phenomenon in political history, that so much liberty should have emanated and been conceded to a new State by such a tyrannical Governor.

In Carteret's time there appear to have been only four Counties, Bergen, Essex, Middlesex and Monmouth. We find in the Laws passed by the Assembly convened at Amboy, November 5, 1675, provision made for the holding of two Courts in Bergen, on the first Tuesday in March, and the last Wednesday in September, for Elizabeth and Newark, the County of Essex, two Courts on the second Tuesday in March, and third in September; for the two towns of Navesink, constituting Monmouth County, two Courts, on the last Tuesday in March and first in September; for Woodbridge and Piscatawa, constituting the County of Middlesex, two Courts, third Tuesday in March and second in September.

Besides these there was to be a monthly Court for the trial of small causes under 40 Shillings, held on the first Wednesday of every month, in each town, by two or three persons chosen by the Freeholders, one of whom was to be a Justice of the Peace.

There was also a Court of Assizes, or the Bench and Provincial Court, held once in a year at Woodbridge, or where the Governor and Council appointed. This was the Supreme Court, and appeals could only be taken to it from the County Courts when the sum involved was less than 20. From the Supreme Court appeal was to the Governor and Council.

 

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The first settlement on lands embraced in Somerset County, began in the year 1681. On the first day of November in that year John Inians & Co., secured a title for two lots, embracing the land on which the City of New Brunswick now stands, having a mile of river front and two miles in depth. From the North of Inians 6s Co., to Bound Brook, there were laid out 19 lots, having a little less than one-half a mile n the river, and extending two miles in depth. The last of these lots with an adjoining plot on the south side, was owned by William Dockwra and contained 900 acres. Behind these, facing the Millstone, were two other lots ; the lower containing 800 acres, and belonging to George Willox, and the upper containing 500 acres was the property of Dockwra, From the mouth of the Millstone three and a half miles to an Island in the Raritan River (in front of R.H, Veghte's residence) thence South by West two miles, and east two miles to Millstone River, containing 3000 acres, exclusive of 250 acres of meadow, had been previously deeded to Capt. Anthony Brockholls, William Penhorn, John Robinson, Mathew Nichols and Samuel Edsall. The land was sold to John Royce & Co., of New York in 1685 and was to be known in future as Roycefield. The bounds as given in the deed of transfer were "beginning at a place called Hunter's Wigwam on Millstone River, thence north by east, and north east to the Raritan River, opposite the West end of a small Island formnerly belonging to Robert Van Quellen, and thence down the Karl tan three and a half miles and up the Millstone to the place of beginning." Farther up the Millstone were twelve plots of 12000 acres owned by Polhemus Cortleyou. Lott and others located in 1701. John Harrison and William, his father, owned land at Rocky Hill. It was know n afterwards as the Berrian place; and Washington wrote his farewell address in the house in which the Berrian's lived. For more specific information in reference to the early land titles, we can only refer to Corwin's Memorial.